Where will my child go? ask parents after Northampton disability club is axed after county council cutbacks

Editorial image shows a 'Guideposts session at Northgate School. The charity has been running for 40 years.
Editorial image shows a 'Guideposts session at Northgate School. The charity has been running for 40 years.

A Saturday club that provides parents of disabled children in Northampton a few precious hours respite is to be axed as part of service cuts.

Guideposts offers activity sessions for people of all ages with learning difficulties, physical disabilities, diabetes, brain injuries, dementia and more.

It runs youth clubs in Kingsthorpe, Daventry and Brackley for 12 to 25-year-olds as well as Saturday sessions featuring messy play, music and sensory toys for younger children.

But as of April 1 they will all stop.

Funding to the six-hour Saturday clubs at the Beehive in Kingsthorpe and Phoenix Youth Centre, Daventry has been ceased by Northamptonshire County Council - a devastating blow for some users of the group.

But Guideposts says the termination of that contract has impacted on its “ability to run safe and well managed services,” and has chosen to shut the youth clubs it runs as well.

Jane Heseltine’s nine-year-old daughter Hermione is one of only a handful of children in the world to have SWAN - Syndrome Without A Name, which leaves her with complex speech and learning difficulties.

Following the news her Guideposts group in Kingsthorpe has been cut she said: “There is just nothing left for children like her.

“She goes to Guideposts once a month and she has a lot of friends that go there.”

Mrs Heseltine, of Danefield Road, Abington, says the six-hour session allows her to spend some vital time with her other two children.

Joanne Spencer of Bugbrooke takes her 10-year-old daughter Jemma, who has Down’s Syndrome, to the Beehive Saturday club.

She quit her job as a fraud investigator to look after her daughter full time and suffers from fibromyalgia herself.

She said; “It is so important for our families to have that little bit of respite each week, I can’t stress how important that is. Where are we meant to go now? It makes you wonder what we pay our council tax for.”

And Bridget McGown, whose son attends the Beehive, said: “There are schemes for other children but for the profound and multiple learning disabled this was it.

“Now there is nothing for them until they reach 18 when they move into adult services.”

She added: “It is such a shame that our children whose lives are isolated enough that the only chance to have fun outside the school and home has been taken away from them.”

Director of fundraising and communications at Guideposts Ian Cumming, said the cut in council funding left the charity without a service manager for Northamptonshire.

He said: “Guideposts was recently notified by NCC that they had reluctantly taken the decision to end our contract for delivery of the Saturday and Holiday Clubs in Northants.

“Sadly, the loss of the Saturday and Holiday Club contracts means that we lost funding for several staff and, crucially, a service manager role within the county.

“Unfortunately, this has impacted on our ability to continue to provide safe and well managed youth groups in the county.

“It was therefore with considerable regret that we informed Northamptonshire County Council we would have to end our provision of these services, on the same day which the Saturday and Holiday Club contract ends – 31 March 2016.”

Northamptonshire County Council says it is possible another service provider could step in to take on the youth clubs stopped by Guideposts.

A spokesman said: “Guideposts has informed us it will be ceasing the five clubs it is commissioned to run by the county council, despite us withdrawing funding for only one of the clubs (contracts).

“The Papworth Trust has also opted to end its clubs for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities in Kettering and Wellingborough from March 31.

“The funding for the clubs remains in place and we are keen to continue to provide these services for children and families, so are actively seeking to identify new providers to step in for the new financial year.”

PLEASE NOTE: The Beehive has asked us to clarify that it is not closing, it is only the Guideposts sessions which take place there that are ceasing. Other clubs and events will run as normal.